After more than a decade of legal challenges
and nonviolent protests against a proposed nuclear-waste dump, the
Save Ward Valley Coalition is closing its office. Members have
gladly worked themselves out of a job.
made tremendous steps toward victory," says Bradley Angel of
Greenaction, one of the environmental groups in the coalition. US
Ecology, the company chosen by the state of California to build the
dump, has been forced to appeal two federal court decisions. In
addition, the company is suing the state of California for
"We're basically arguing that the state
needs to get on with it and build Ward Valley or give us our money
back - $162 million," says US Ecology vice president Stephen
Romano. He says state officials are dragging their heels because
California is a "not in my backyard"
Nuclear waste produced in California is
still shipped out of state, mainly to South Carolina. Since the
late 1980s, however, federal laws have required the state to bury
its nuclear waste at home. Ward Valley was supposed to take on the
local burden. But the valley, part of the Mojave Desert in
southeastern California, is considered sacred land by several
Native American tribes and is also important habitat for the
threatened desert tortoise. Because the dump site is only 18 miles
from the Colorado River, critics also worried about nuclear waste
leaking into the region's drinking water.
Ecology's Romano says environmental issues were looked at by the
National Academy of Sciences in 1995, and "the science is clear:
the site is sound."
Angel says his group will be
watching the state's next move. "We'll continue to fight, whether
it's Ward Valley or any of the sons of Ward Valley," Angel says.
"Closing the office is wonderful - it's a signal that we continue
to march toward victory."